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Kozak: Vancouver Ukrainian Restaurant | A Nutritionist's Review

While I find great joy and satisfaction in preparing wholesome, nutrient dense meals at home, trying new restaurants is one of my greatest pleasures in life. For this reason, when I find a restaurant that serves incredible food that I wouldn't be able to make at home and does so with fresh, nutrient dense ingredients and a commitment to the traditions of home cooking, I'm an instant fan.


We visited the Gastown restaurant although upon further investigation I discovered that there are two other variations of Kozak in Vancouver (which I'm sure we will be visiting.) You can feel that this place puts care into their selection of ingredients. Their goal is to "keep it real - just as grandma taught us." Wondering about the space itself? As my boyfriend so perfectly put it, Kozak is down-to-earth home cooking in an upscale, artsy space.




Although I've eaten bits and pieces of Ukrainian cuisine throughout my life (mainly cheap pirogies let's be honest), this was my first experience at a Ukrainian restaurant. Some key ingredients on the menu were beats, beans, cabbage, potatoes, cottage cheese and sour cream.


Let's talk about the nutritional value of some of Kozak's menu items and key ingredients.


Ferments

Sour cream, cottage cheese, sauerkraut and sourdough bread are all fermented through a process called lactic acid fermentation and all appear on Kozak's menu. One notable bacteria that is present in these foods is Lactobacillus acidophilus - a bacteria that has been extensively studied for its health benefits.


Lactobacillus acidophilus is actually naturally present in the human gut, but there are many benefits to consuming it through food and supplementation. Check out this Healthline article on some of the studied benefits of Lactobacillus acidophilus.


Protein

Cottage cheese, various meats and beans will all provide a source of protein. While I personally follow a pescatarian diet, I love to see plant based, vegetarian and quality animal sources of protein on a menu. Cottage cheese appears quite a few times on Kozak's menu. Fun fact, cottage cheese is actually a high protein food! It weighs in at about 23 grams of protein per cup. That, coupled with its probiotic content makes it a pretty nourishing food if you ask me.







Prominent Vitamins


1. Folate


Folate, also known as vitamin B9 is the naturally occurring form of B9 in food. If you've ever seen the term 'folic acid', this is the synthetic form of vitamin B9 often used in supplementation. Folate is serves many functions in the body, but some key functions include:


  • Aiding in red blood cell production.

  • Supports balanced levels of brain neurotransmitters through its supplying of methyl groups.

  • Crucial in periods of growth, including pregnancy: folate is required for the synthesis of DNA and plays a key role in the development of an infant's nervous system.

Folate at Kozak can be found in:

  • Beets

  • Cabbage

  • Kidney beans

  • Potatoes

2. Vitamin A/Beta-carotene


There are two different food sources of vitamin A; Preformed vitamin A which comes from animal sources, and beta-carotene which is provitamin A, meaning it can be converted to vitamin A in the body. Beta-carotene is mainly found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables as well as leafy green vegetables, making it a pretty widely available nutrient.


Vitamin A at Kozak can be found in:

  • Menu items containing milk products such as sour cream and cottage cheese.

  • Carrots (carrot/apple juice.)

Other prominent vitamins


Many of the plant foods on the Kozak menu will contain varying amounts of vitamin C, most prominently in the juices and raw items such as salads as vitamin C is a temperature sensitive nutrient.


Another nutrient that comes up quite a bit is methionine due to its prominence in beets and beans. Methionine is an amino acid with several functions in the body including antioxidant properties. Methionine is involved in the production of cysteine which is used to build proteins in the body. Additionally, methionine can be converted into SAM (or adenosylmethionine) which is important for cellular energy as it is used in the production of creatine.


Dietary Restrictions

Kozak offers a wide variety of vegetarian options and an impressive list of vegan options, including vegan pirogies. As for the gluten-free folks, there are also quite a few options, although you may have to sit out on the pirogies. All in all, it's quite an inclusive menu for omnivores, vegans and everything in between!


Personally, I LOVE this restaurant because it made me eat beets and carrots in the most delicious way. For whatever reason, I just don't gravitate towards orange or purple vegetables (aside from purple cabbage) and so I loved getting in some nutrients that I don't get day to day.


If you try Kozak, I would love to hear your thoughts! Tag me on instagram at @peachykeennutrition - Happy eating!

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